Whew, that has been a pretty hectic off-season for the UK offense. 2 of the 3 scholarship quarterbacks transferred out of the school, both with some memorable words on the way out. The offensive coordinator was canned, with much controversy from the players. And then even the hiring of a new offensive coordinator didn’t seem to come easy. But we now are at a place where we can look at what the offense might look like for 2016. Remember that spring ball is right around the corner. So, here is a position by position look at where the roster stands now:
Drew Barker (RS Sophomore): 2 starts, 35-70, 364 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Gunnar Hoak (3-star)
Outlook: This position has been the main issue for Mark Stoops in his tenure. J. Whitlow certainly wasn’t the answer and Patrick Towles was just far too inconsistent. With his transfer and Reese Phillips transfer as well, the team completely rests on the shoulders of Drew Barker now. Unfortunately, his play in the final 2 games of the year didn’t exactly excite UK fans. Now he has a whole off-season with a new offensive coordinator to make this work. If we don’t see an improved Barker in 2016, it’s hard to expect a bowl appearance for the Cats. If Barker gets hurt, a real possibility in football, then true frosh Gunnar Hoak is it for the Cats. Let’s not consider that option right now.
RUNNING BACK (6)
JoJo Kemp (Senior): 2 starts, 268 carries, 1360 yards, 13 TD
Boom Williams (Junior): 11 starts, 195 carries, 1336 yards, 11 TD
Mikel Horton (Junior): 2 starts, 141 carries, 624 yards, 5 TD
Sihiem King (Sophomore): 11 carries, 127 yards, 1 TD
Asim Rose (3-star, 25th ranked RB)
Benny Snell (3-star)
Outlook: This is likely UK’s best unit on the whole team, offense or defense. They have 4 legitimate options at the running back spot, with Boom Williams leading the way. If Boom can stay healthy, he is an elite SEC running back. But luckily for the Cats, if he goes down or is ineffective, Kemp or Horton have proven capable. Then you have Sihiem King, who seems to excite the fans and could be a breakout player in 2016. UK also brings in a highly rated freshman in Asim Rose, but will there be room for him in 2016? Stoops has yet to redshirt a running back in his tenure. Nonetheless, UK looks strong here.
WIDE RECEIVER (12)
Ryan Timmons (Senior): 24 starts, 89 catches, 988 yards, 5 TD
Dorian Baker (Junior): 15 starts, 74 catches, 807 yards, 4 TD
Garrett Johnson (Junior): 13 starts, 68 catches, 965 yards, 4 TD
Jeff Badet (RS Junior): 10 starts, 51 catches, 715 yards, 3 TD
Blake Bone (Junior): 1 start, 34 catches, 404 yards, 3 TD
Alex Montgomery (RS Junior): 19 catches, 155 yards, 2 TD
T.V. Williams (Junior): 5 catches, 59 yards
Jabari Greenwood (RS Freshman)
Tavin Richardson (RS Freshman)
Kayaune Ross (JC Transfer, 3-star, 84th ranked JC player)
Dakota Holtzclaw (3-star)
Za’Aire Hughes (3-star)
Outlook: If you never watched a UK game over the past 2 years and just looked at the returning players above and their stats, you would think that UK has one of the deepest core of wideouts in the SEC or the country. What’s true is UK is experienced but for those of us who have watched this group in 2014 and 2015, you know they are sometimes maddening. Timmons basically disappeared after impressive seasons in ’13 and ’14. Dorian Baker and Juice Johnson have the ability but have shown questionable hands at times as well as some effort issues. Badet and Bone have seen the field a ton. And don’t forget about Alex Montgomery, who showed serious potential in 2013 before getting injured, missing 2014, and then never seemingly recovering this year. If he can get back healthy, that’s another guy. You also get Greenwood and Richardson off their redshirts and maybe get something there. Point being, you would think Mark Stoops could find 3 or 4 guys to consistently give him great effort and consistent dependability. Of the incoming guys, Ross provides a 6’5” option right away.
TIGHT END (4)
C.J. Conrad (Sophomore): 9 starts, 15 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD
Darryl Long (RS Sophomore): no stats
Greg Hart (RS Junior, transfer from Nebraska)
Justin Rigg (3-star)
Outlook: Certainly Conrad seems to have this position locked down for the foreseeable future but we will have to wait and see what the transfer Hart might give the Cats after having his appeal to play in 2015 denied. Conrad became more and more a part of the regular passing game as the season went on but still encountered long stretches of invisibility. The talent is obviously there but will he get 30-35 touches next year?
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (8)
Kyle Meadows (RS Junior): 9 starts
George Asafo-Adjei (Sophomore): 3 starts
Levon Livingston (RS Freshman)
Logan Stenberg (RS Freshman)
Calvin Taylor (RS Freshman)
Mason Wolfe (RS Freshman)
Tate Leavitt (JC Transfer, 4-star, 11th ranked JUCO player)
Landon Young (4-star, 4th ranked OT)
Outlook: This is an interesting position because the Cats struggled in 2015 here. Asafo-Adjei started the year at right tackle but was benched after 3 games. Kyle Meadows was the starter the rest of the year but struggled. I don’t know why but the official UK roster listed Big George as a guard, so maybe that’s just a mistake or maybe something is in the works. Nonetheless, UK returns 2 guys who have started games. But the big news is Tate Leavitt and Landon Young coming in. Stoops has already said he expects Leavitt to come in and play immediately and make an impact. So don’t be surprised to see him in the starting lineup. Young, as a top 5 incoming offensive tackle, could probably play. But does UK have enough depth to redshirt him in 2016?
OFFENSIVE GUARD (4)
Ramsey Meyers (RS Junior): 24 starts
Nick Haynes (RS Junior): 10 starts
Cole Mosier (RS Junior): 2 starts
Jarrett LaRubbio (RS Sophomore)
Outlook: Meyers has cemented himself into the right guard spot, starting every game the last 2 seasons. Don’t expect that to change in 2016. It seemed Nick Haynes also grabbed control of the left guard spot midway through the season. Expect those guys in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. Mosier has seen a lot of action but will LaRubbio provide a good backup? Depth is always the key on the lines.
Jon Toth (RS Senior): 35 starts
Zach Myers (RS Senior): 1 start
Bunchy Stallings (RS Sophomore)
Drake Jackson (4-star, 3rd ranked C)
Luke Fortner (3-star)
Outlook: The position is clearly Toth’s barring injury. The question I have for 2016 is whether Myers remains the backup and Jackson redshirts, or is Jackson just too good to not put him on the 2-deep? I’m hoping Jackson can sit out the year and get even better but we’ll see once the fall rolls around. Bunchy Stallings could be an interesting guy to watch as well to see if he sees the field more.